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Streaming, live TV and our ever-changing viewing habits

The average person watches six hours of video a day, on the device of their choice (rather than being limited to just the traditional television set). Consumers can watch whatever, whenever and wherever they choose, with a whole host of streaming services available offering libraries stacked full of content.

The TV landscape has changed dramatically after having not moved much in decades. The moment digital was an option, consumer choice has escalated and TV companies have had to adapt quickly. For example, all terrestrial channels have needed to launch an on-demand service.

TV programmes used to be an ‘event’, and many consumers based their daily routine around them. Indeed, I remember growing up knowing that dinner was worked around my parents needing to sit down to watch the news at 6pm. Now people are able to get their news whenever they want. Breaking news is even delivered instantly to their smartphones if they choose.

Not so long ago, we would be so excited about the possibility of binging a TV series and not having to wait a whole week to watch the next episode, and today we have that control. We have the availability, flexibility and convenience of watching our favourite shows whenever we like!

Viewers also have more power today. We don’t just watch whatever the large TV companies decide to produce and broadcast for us. Viewing habits and ratings are closely and easily monitored and shows will generally only be recommissioned if they hit a certain target. The TV companies can also see what type of shows are the most popular, what works and what doesn’t.

Social media plays a massive role too. Many people’s viewing habits depend on them finding their niche and tribe: watching particular clips and programmes on YouTube and social media. Viewers find their own, more personalised content. Moreover, people can also make their own content and don’t need to rely on large production companies to gain viewers and popularity. This creative freedom has both pros and cons. Unfortunately, by being mainly unregulated, there can be some toxic content online.

There are many TV shows that were actually picked up by TV companies after first being on the internet, such as Rick & Morty. Recently, the same can be said for popular podcasts.

Social media also benefits the TV companies as they can post teaser clips, adverts, reviews and memes of programmes. Online discussion also helps them gain higher viewing figures.

More people watch video than ever before (which is brilliant news for TV advertising). The pandemic played a role in this increase. With lockdown and people confined to their homes, people turned to TV. This was for many reasons: distraction, boredom, escapism, to unwind, and it was a safe place to go at a scary time.

There was also a change in habits, with more families watching together and making their favourite programme or movie an ‘event’. Streaming companies have capitalised on this, with platforms such as Disney Plus releasing ‘home movie premieres’. Today, some movie release dates are both simultaneously at the cinema and online. Sadly, this has resulted in a decline in cinema audiences.

More people subscribed to streaming services during lockdown, so they had more choice. The move away from traditional broadcast TV was also because TV channels couldn’t make new content and so were showing many repeats. Today, people between 16 and 24 years old only watch up to one hour’s broadcast TV per day.

Unsurprisingly, live comedy and sitcoms boomed during lockdown as people wanted to cheer themselves up!

There are other reasons why online video has become a part of our lives. Many people will stream Netflix throughout the day to keep them company, even if they aren’t watching properly. Believe it or not, YouTube is the most popular way to listen to music online, more than other music streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music combined.

Some will use Netflix as part of their bedtime routine, watching it in bed and even going to sleep with it still streaming.

Interestingly, it was reported by The Guardian that four out of five young people are watching shows with subtitles on. This is so they can multitask: for example, watch TV shows on their tablet while messaging or playing games on their phone. The subtitles let them scan quickly what is happening before returning to their phones. Our habits are constantly changing.

Netflix announced recently that they have lost subscribers, particularly with the growth in popularity of Disney Plus. There are indeed many streaming services to choose from now, such as Apple TV, Amazon Prime and Now TV, and with more digital channels being launched such as Paramount Plus.

It is too expensive for the average consumer to subscribe to every digital channel, so they are having to choose carefully. There are also reports that consumers are feeling overwhelmed with choice.

More changes are coming in 2023! One of the biggest TV news this year is that Netflix is going to stream live shows, with their first being hosted by comedian and actor, Chris Rock. This is a very wise move from Netflix, to try and gain some of their audience back.

Yes, streaming services have overtaken traditional TV for the reasons I’ve already stated. However, live TV still has many advantages over streaming for viewers.

People love feeling part of a TV event, and there’s the thrill that they are experiencing it with millions of others around the country, or even world! This is particularly true with sporting events, such as the Lionesses lifting the European Cup earlier this year. I’m sure millions will also tune in to watch King Charles’ first Christmas message!

TV events are a source of conversation, both online and in person, with people discussing for example, competition shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off when they are broadcast. Many people will WhatsApp friends and family when watching, and platforms like Twitter give the opportunity to chat to strangers by following hashtags.

So for Netflix and others entering the live streaming arena, it also gives them the opportunity to provide phone and online votes for competition shows, and for viewers to interact with the action by sending in their views and questions live.

It will be interesting to see how the new live streaming shows work. This time next year, we can expect that there will be news of our viewing habits shifting yet again!

Images by Joyce Busola, Mika Baumeister, Alexander Dummer, Victoria Heath, Thomas Serer - UnSplash


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